Who needs Terry Richardson or Annie Leibovitz when we have Tapu Javeri and Muzi Sufi!
As I was going through my Instagram feed a couple of days ago, I came across a series of flashback photos that Tapu Javeri had posted on his profile. I was left awestruck and mesmerised by how cool things were even back in the early 90s.
His shots of Babara Sharif as Marilyn Monroe, styled by Nabila, and his first ever published piece from 1991, where he manipulated the images in the darkroom using hand painting to make it look magical, speaks volumes of the photographic talent that Pakistan has. This was back in the day when fashion was not mainstream and fashion photography in Pakistan was unheard of by the common man. It made me wonder about the state of fashion photography in Pakistan and how much we have progressed in terms of creative expression. Ather and Shahzad, the dynamic duo, were also part of the pioneering bunch in terms of exposing fashion photography to the mainstream media.
It was in the early 2000s, that the internet took the nation by storm, the consumption of media forms changed and newspapers started churning out high fashion editorials on a regular basis, that it started reaching the masses. Models became supermodels, dominating print and electronic media alike, and photographers started getting their work recognised, thanks to people knowing the faces they worked with. Photographers realised the importance of the talent they were working with, and accordingly, their work grew.
With more demand comes the ability to work more and the more work opportunities one has, the more it gives one a chance to explore their creative expression. Fashion photography started expanding as a form of art. Then in the late 2000s, photographers such as Guddu and Shani, Ayaz Anis and Rizwanul Haq started coming out with amazing concepts and ideas that redefined the boundaries of fashion photography in Pakistan. Photoshop has also played a huge part in this, but one cannot solely rely on editing jobs for credibility. A photographer’s work speaks for itself.
A lot of the credit has got to go to the photography schools around the nation, offering courses that help the industry create talented fashion photographers, National College of Arts being one of them. Now, photographers need credibility and, in the fast paced rat-race of a world, talent is just not enough to get through.
Nowadays, the new crop of fashion photographers are breaking barriers and pushing themselves even more so. A lot of the credit must also go to the publications, newspapers and fashion magazines that give these new photographers a chance to showcase their work. Nadir Firoz Khan and Abdullah Haris’s work has been lauded not only by people in the industry but also by those who follow them on social media.
That being said, the change in the way we consume media has upped the game in many ways. Thanks to inspiration boards on Pinterest, fashion bloggers having their say, Instagram enabling people to devour the beauty of photography for themselves, and Facebook exposure has changed the way things are. Our industry is now not only for the country but people from all over the world, who are interested in taking part in the game. So naturally, in order to keep up with the Kardashians, the photographers have no choice but to go all out with their creativity, ideas and photography skills, creating more and more fun campaigns worthy of a Tumblr repost and an Instagram share. It’s getting tougher but with time, things are getting better.
Pakistan’s fashion photographers now stand at par with international photographers. Sure, we may not have Terry Richardson or Annie Leibovitz to shoot for Vogue or Elle, but we do have our very own Tapu Javeri and Muzi Sufi shooting for Hello! and Herald, all the while pushing boundaries of the way Pakistanis consume fashion imagery and how things should be for fashion photography.
In short, all of it has come together with the efforts of everyone, from the models to publishing houses, the industry being open to change and letting the work speak for itself. People are accepting of the change that the fashion industry is making in the field of photography and photographers are open to experimenting. Where Pakistanis may once have felt envious of the photo-shoots in Vogue or GQ, we now have work to devour that is on par with any high fashion international magazine and has an entity of its own.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.